Friday, May 2, 2008

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Pizza

Correction/Addendum: Thanks to D for the heads up. Mendelsohn Pizza was one of the pizza stores rumored to have raised prices to $4.00 per slice. The Nachum Siegel interview with Mr. Mendelsohn brought out that he has indeed raised prices but to "only" $3.00 per slice. A huge sigh of relief. After all, that means that pizza is "only" $24.00 a pie in Mendelsohn's shop.

That, by the way, is the equivalent of 3-1/2 to 4 large raw chickens, or 4 pounds of high-end chopped meat or 40 pounds of potatoes, not on sale. It is the equivalent of 12 bags of cut lettuce mix or 24 bags of cut cabbage mix, usually on sale somewhere. It is the equivalent of about 12 half-gallons of milk. At 3 for $5.00 (Shoprite), that is 15 large bags of frozen vegetables. At $4.00 for the large box, that is 6 boxes of cereal, not on sale. Even at 50 cents a piece, that is 48 grapefruits.

If pizza is considered a snack, as D says it is for him, then ponder this. That pizza pie is the equivalent of 24-27 bottles of Coke or Pepsi on sale. At $2.99 for an 84 ounce container of pretzels, that pie is equal to 8 x 84 ounces of pretzels. On sale yesterday were Duncan Hines cake mixes at 2 for $5.00--that is 10 cakes for one pizza pie. Kedem tea biscuits were on sale at 3 for 99 cents--that is 72 packages of cookies for one pizza pie.

Frozen kosher pizza in the supermarkets goes from a low of $10.99 to $16.00 for a full-sized pie. Frozen pizza dough under hashgocha was regular priced at $5.19 for a package big enough to make one extra large pie or two small ones. Kosher pizza cheese was regular priced at $4.29. A can of tomato sauce was 50 cents, not on sale. Spices are in your kitchen, but even add in 25 cents for how much you will use. Cost of making your own pizza? About $10.00. Making your own dough will cut the price by about $3.00 to $4.00. Even adding in the cost of gas for your oven for long enough to bake the pizza makes your home baked or completely home made pizza well less than half of the cost of the pizza in the stores. The cost of a pizza baking pan? $8.00 to 10.00, unlimited future usage.

Also consider this--For a regular car, that pizza is 2/3 of a tank of gas; even for an SUV, that is a bit more than 1/3 of a tank of gas.

And let's also consider this: Show me the adult who eats only one slice of pizza for a dinner or lunch meal. Unless we are talking very small children who can't finish more than one slice of pizza, we are talking two slices per person. That means that one pie feeds only 4 adults or adults and older children. (And should you limit everyone to only one slice of pizza, the meal will require a lot of side dishes to make it a filling meal--additional cost.) Now, what if you are feeding 6 people? That is 12 slices, or 1-1/2 pizza pies for $36.00. Now figure the equivalents to the other things you eat. Now add in the other things you need to make this pizza a complete meal (pizza by itself is hardly a nutritional power house).

At even "only" $24.00 a pie in a pizza shop, pizza is hardly a bargain, no matter which way you look at it.


Orthonomics said...

Those complaining about pizza prices should learn to make their own. There was a letter in the Yated a while back from a parent saddened that it was too expensive to take her large family out to the pizza shop and others saying, pizza shouldn't be a luxury. We have always treated pizza out and even pre-made pizza in as a luxury and that is why we were able to put money away. Anyone Dropping $24 on a pizza is nuts in my opinion. Time to learn to make your own.

I have discovered it is easier to make these inexpensive items (challah, pie crusts, etc) right at home that pick up and go to the store. Perhaps we need to bring back serious home ec in schools. I'm self-taught, however, and think you really just need drive.

Anonymous said...

Even though I am a careful spender I never compared pizza to the other things I buy in the way you did in the post. A real eye opener. I took out a few register tapes from the supermarket and compared what else I buy against the pie and a half from the pizza shop. Any idea of just how many gallons of snack ice cream you can get for the cost of that pizza! Pizza shop pizza just got removed from my shopping list.

Anonymous said...

The pizza prices are even more surprising when you look at all the advertised prices for non kosher pizza. Kosher pizza is way more expensive. Not by a little bit but by a huge difference. Even assuming that kosher products to make the pizza cost more because of the cost of the hechsher it shouldn't be this much more.

And pizza in our area has not yet gotten to the price given for the store in Brooklyn. A pie is $18.00. And that is still no bargain compared to the non kosher pizza.

Bas~Melech said...

I also considered store pizza a luxury even before the price hike, and I enjoy my homemade pizza a lot. But I do see the point of the Yated writer: Before the prices started rising, pizza was an affordable treat for times when mom or dad needs a break from making food. Few days before pesach? Pizza. Just had a baby? Pizza. Lots of unexpected company? Pizza.
These days that won't happen as easily.

ProfK said...

Okay, I must have had pizza on the brain this morning. When I was at Shoprite I checked the kosher frozen food section and looked at the pizza. Incredible bargain time! A package of 6 slices was $5.99--that's a dollar a slice. I compared the weight per portion against the full 8-slice package and it's the same. I paid $35.94 for six packages--that's the equivalent of 4-1/2 pies at the pizza shop, and at the pizza shop that pie would have cost, at $3.00 a slice, $108.00. (By the by, cholov Yisroel, pas Yisroel with the OU on that pizza)

Bas Melech,
This is where using a freezer correctly can save you both money and time while being very convenient. The pizza is always available to you, never mind what the weather outside is like, how you are feeling, what time it is or if you get company. It takes 5 minutes to bring the pizza slices to eating temperature. It takes a lot more than five minutes to bundle everyone up, get to the pizza shop, place an order and then either eat it there or bring it home. Let's not even talk about the gas for the car.

About the only time I could see the convenience of the pizza shop pizza is before Pesach, when the kitchen is neither here nor there. Okay, so I might let myself get suckered into overpaying once a year.

Anonymous said...

We cut back on beef, not so much because of the health because we weren't eating really all that much of it but because of the price. And then I added up what we spent on pizza last year (we pay all our bills by credit card so we have the exact amounts at the end of the year for every expense). We spent almost %1000 on pizza and our kids are not all big yet! And the pizza here is also only about $16-18 for a pie--it is more if you only buy by the slice. We could afford that beef indulgence a lot more if we weren't eating pizza so much.

Sunday we are going to redo our food budget. It's crazy when pizza accounts for about 1/12 of the food budget for a year. If you live where pizza is $24 a pie it is an even bigger chunk out of the food budget.

Anonymous said...

I remembered ProfK that you always told us that math was not your area of expertise so I decided to double check your figures and see if this pizza thing was really such a big deal. Darn it but you are right.

I eat about four slices a week for lunch, sometimes a few more. They charge more if you buy it only by the slice instead of the pie. The place near work charges $2.50 a slice. That means I'm spending over $500 on pizza a year, and that is just for lunch time pizza. Some times I'll buy it at dinner time too. I always used to think it was a quick and cheap meal. Very quick when I don't have to make it but not so cheap when you add up all the slices.

Next thing I know you're going to be telling me to bring lunch from home instead. You and my mother. Why does it seem that the women in my life are always right even if I'm sure they are wrong?

Have a gutten Shabbos even if you've made mine a little gloomy.

Gila said...

Decided to do the same exercise, but with my fave treat--a big thing of sushi (NIS 55-about $15). Prices are as per Tel Aviv supermarket (aka expensive).

Chickens-maybe two decent sized fresh, raw chickens
Yogurt-12 individual yogurts (essential food item here)
Cottage cheese-about 10 containers (smaller than the ones sold in the States though)
Prepared salatim--about 4
Cereal--2-3 boxes
Rice- 2.5 bags of Basmati rice or 5 bags of Persian rice
Tomatoes-10 kg (as per price at fave greengrocer yesterday
Cucumbers-8 kg (more if purchased at the shuk)
Frozen veggies-2 medium bags (much more expensive here)
Sliced turkey breast (cold-cuts)-700 grams
Bread-fresh bread from bakery-4-5loaves

And I have been wondering why I never seem to be able to save despite making a good salary.....

Think it is time for me to pull out my credit card statements and do a bit of analyzing.

Anonymous said...

Tried ignoring this post all night but finally came back because I knew I needed to. It's not pizza in my house that is upping the food bills. I looked at the bills from the takehome food stores for the past few months. For Shabbos every week I buy one pound of potato salad and one pound of cole slaw. I really looked at the prices for these two. The store charges five dollar a pound. Not counting when I buy extra for company or yom tov I'm spending $260 a year on 52 pounds of potato salad and the same for cole slaw. For Pesach I bought 50 pounds of potatoes for $15. Even figuring in the mayo and celery for the potato salad I don't come anywhere near that $260 if I make it myself. Same for the cole slaw. I found a few other places where buying ready made is costing me so much more then making it at home, like buying kugels.

I used to think that there wasn't much difference in price between the two but I thank you for pointing out there really is a difference. I figure if I start making all those little side dishes myself I'm going to save enough money so that we can afford some sort of vacation this year.

Anonymous said...

I found my place to cut the bills with all the cleaning supplies. I found a cheap store brand for laundry detergent that cleans just like the major brands and only costs me $2.75 for a large bottle. Saved more then half the money right there. Then I found a store brand concentrated fabric softener for $3.00 for the 40 load bottle. Here's news too: use only half the amount they tell you to use. It works just the same. Of course they want you to use more so they can sell you more. i experimented with all the house cleansers that the 99cent store has until I found those that worked right and smell okay. The savings is about 2/3 the price off of the brand name cleansers. Those sponges with the scrubbers on the back? 4 for 99cents. In the regular store they are one for 99cents. A gallon of Simple Green cleaner refill on sale at the hardware store for 3.30. Poured into my own empty spray bottle that is 82 cents for a quart of cleaner instead of the 2.89 and up for the other name brand cleaners in the market. I figure I cut my cleaning and laundry costs down by 2/3 to 3/4 of what I spent before. With what I sve I can still buy the mayo and ketchup brands we like to eat and have some left over for other things.

Anonymous said...

We use a wholesale restaurant supplier to buy case lots of items that we use a lot of that they carry. Not all of them will sell to individuals but I found two that do and the savings are great. Tuna costs me half of what the stores charge even when they reduce prices. Ditto for mayo. I split the cases with two or three friends and we all get a bargain.

Anonymous said...

DD is right about the restaurant supply places. One of my clients is a diner type restaurant and I saw in their books how much less they were paying for casees of items then I could get them for in the store. Plus, the more they order, the more the price goes down. They allow me to put in a case order when I need it for the kosher items that are available. It can lower their prices and gives me a break as well.

But there is a plus to this besides the money. The restaurant orders those individual portion items like jams and butter and cream cheese and creamer and mayonnaise and ketchup and mustard and pancake syrup. Amazing what the difference is between those portion sizes and what we tend to put on our food when we are dipping out of the bigger containers. Those portion sizes in the individual packages are according to what the government says a portion should be--we usually use way too much of these things. Has helped to control calorie intake here and I finally lost the 20 pounds I needed to while still being able to treat myself to things I like to eat. And because the jam cases come in mixed flavors everyone gets to have their favorite flavor without my having 4 open jars of jam in the fridge. Less waste this way.

The dairy products last longer too because they are not all opened at once. Plus the butter and creamer I keep frozen and only pop out a serving as I need it.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I both make good salaries but we couldn't figure out where all the money was going. In January we sat down and finally made a budget sort of like what you suggested. Boy were we in shock when we finished.

We made it a game to reduce our expenses and included the kids. Every slice of pizza that they didn't buy out became a credit in our vacation fund. Every new shmatte that we didn't buy also got credited to the fund. We also gave credits to our savings fund and to our buy something we can all use and enjoy in the house fund. This summer for the first time we are going to go on a vacation with our children. We also bought a piano and I'm teaching the kids how to play. I could also afford some cleaning help before Pesach. All this without adding in anything extra to our expenses and we are even saving. One thing we gave up? Soda during the week. Also eating out is limited to everyones birthday. So many places to cut back and no one is feeling poor. What is even better is that our kids are thinking about money in a realistic way. They ask us before they ask for something to be bought if it is in the budget.

Anonymous said...

Pizza is a relative luxury in our house. My wife can eat 2+ slices, my 8 year old eats at least 2 slices. My 6 year old eats one and half, my 5 year old eats one and a half. The 2 1/2 year old twins each eat at least one slice each depending on their mood and how distracted they might be at the time. I generally don't eat pizza at all (I avoid carbohydrates whenever possible). That's already more than a whole pie for my family without me, add me (I would eat 4+ slices), and we definitely need 2 pies. Lately about the only time our family has pizza is when my parents are visiting and all their grandchildren (12 of them) get together for dinner at a park or something like that. The last time was on the day before erev Pesach.

We used to go out for dinner as a family every 5-6 weeks or so, but lately we go much less often, maybe every 2-3 months at best.


Gila said...

You have totally messed up my week. Now, EVERY SINGLE TIME I buy something stupid (bottle of water, bottle of Sprite etc) I find myself thinking--hey, there is half a chicken right there!!!

Anonymous said...

Wish it was only the pizza. Have you priced what fast food fried chicken costs? Or how about kosher chinese food? I wouldn't buy that turkey rolled roast for Pesach because they wanted $34 dollars for it, and it would have fed us 5 with leftovers. Last night's bill for the 5 of us at a cheap kosher chinese place was $58 without the tip and tax. It would have been cheaper to buy the roast.

Scraps said...

[waves hello]

I'm an adult who only eats one slice of pizza for a meal. But I don't get it that often, especially now that prices have gone up.

My mother makes her own pizza at home because in our hometown there's no kosher pizza store. Yes, everyone, hold back your gasps of horror; it's possible to live without store pizza! And I like my mother's pizza better than any other pizza, though I don't get to have it very often.

When I try to discuss budgeting issues with friends, a lot of times what I hear from them is "time is money". They'd rather spend the money than the time. For instance, a friend of mine who makes $10K more a year than I do lives paycheck to paycheck, even though her rent is lower than mine. But she always eats out, buys store-bought items for Shabbos, and is talking about getting a cleaning lady to clean her apartment. Personally, I would rather just get on my hands and knees and scrub myself, rather than pay someone to do it for me! While I do eat out more often than I should--maybe every other week or so, or once a week when I'm really splurging--I cut costs in other areas to make up for it. But one of the ways I cut costs is to do stuff myself rather than paying a premium to have someone do it for me. Another is investing in a monthly Metrocard and taking public transport everywhere instead of taking cabs. And yes, some of my friends yell at me for taking the subway at night, but since they're not paying for my cabs, it's not their decision.